Court Refuses FIRS Application To Stop Rivers Govt From Collecting VAT

Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Monday refused an application by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), seeking to stop the Rivers State Government from collecting Value Added Tax (VAT).
The Federal Inland Revenue Service filed the application in mid-August against the judgment of the same court which had on August 9 ruled that the Rivers State Government, and not the Federal Inland Revenue Service, is entitled to collect Value Added Tax and Personal Income Tax in Rivers State’s territory.

The judgment was delivered in a suit filed by the Attorney General of Rivers State against the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney General of the Federation.

Not satisfied with the judgment, the FIRS approached an Appeal Court to challenge the ruling.

While the appeal was yet to begin, the revenue collection agency returned to the same Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to seek a stay of execution on the court’s decision, pending the determination of their appeal.

In delivering his ruling on the application by the FIRS, Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam says FIRS failed to file an application to set aside the Rivers State Tax Law of 2021 which was recently enacted by the Rivers State House of Assembly and assented to by Governor Nyesom Wike on August 19, therefore the state law on Value Added Tax is valid and subsisting.

The judge also ruled that the Federal Government already has a huge liability arising from the many years it has collected the tax on behalf of Rivers State, therefore it may be a difficult task for the Federal Government to refund the state if his judgment authorizing the state to collect the tax is upheld at the appellate courts.

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The judge believes that Rivers State can easily remit whatever amount it may have received within the litigation period to the Federal Government if it loses at the Appeal Court.

While the Counsel to the Rivers State Government hailed the ruling, the lawyer to the Federal Inland Revenue Service is hoping to get favourable judgment at the Appeal Court.